Celebrating Juneteenth with community discussions, music, storytelling and more

Celebrating Juneteenth with community discussions, music, storytelling and more

We are entering a new age in our country, where many are opening their eyes, affirming that #BlackLivesMatter, and educating themselves on the still very current issues of racism in America. With these conversations has come the recognition and awareness of Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger brought news to Galveston, Texas that the war had ended and that the enslaved were free. This news was delivered two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and symbolizes the news finally reaching the whole country.

In honor of Juneteenth, and the continued work that is needed to end systemic racism in America, cultural organizations and community groups across Charlotte are hosting programs from block parties and food drives to panels and family days. We encourage everyone to join virtually or in-person (with social distancing, of course), and let the history, creativity, and celebration inspire you to continue learning and doing the work to put an end to racism in our country. 

June 19

The 23rd annual Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas will be held June 19-21 from 10 AM to 8 PM at House of Africa in Plaza Midwood. Attendees can expect a multi-cultural celebration filled with drum circles, local vendors, performances, as well as an open mic. The event is free, and social distancing measures will be honored.


Levine Museum of the New South is hosting a virtual Juneteenth celebration for families from 9 AM to 5 PM. The festivities can be accessed via the museum’s Facebook and Youtube channel, and will feature spoken word, storytelling, history, and music. Visit the website to view the schedule of performances and talks

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library invites ages 12 and older to the virtual Engage 2020: Juneteenth Lunch and Learn noon to 1:30 PM. Learn more about the past, present, and future of civic engagement. Special guest Elisha Minter will reflect on Juneteenth celebrations in Charlotte. Register with a valid email address and the meeting link will be sent a few hours before the program begins.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is hosting an art workshop with artist and educator Alicia L. McDaniel from 3-4 PM, This event is free and people of all ages are encouraged to participate. For more information on supplies or how to join in, visit the Gantt’s website. 

Charlotte Ballet is offering free admission to its regularly scheduled intersession classes (different classes taking place at 3 and 4 PM) and ask that participants donate money that they would have spent on attending the class to an organization that is doing work to advance racial equality in Charlotte or nationwide. More information and class schedules can be found on the Charlotte Ballet website.

From 5-8 PM, the Coalition for a New South is hosting a food truck rally at Hornets Nest Park on Beatties Ford Road. The socially distanced event will be filled with food, music, and speakers. It also serves as a space to remember victims of police brutality and an event to call participants to anti-racist action. More details and park location can be found on the Facebook event page for the gathering. 

June 20

SEAS University, Unitymarkets, and Riziki Zafira together are hosting a Juneteenth Social Distance Community Celebration, filled with community vendors, live entertainment, give-aways, and more. The family-friendly event takes place from noon to 4 PM, and then transitions into a day party for adults from 4-8 PM. The event is free, and more information can be found on the event Facebook page.

6 art books that raise the curtain on black artists, racism and protest

6 art books that raise the curtain for black artists, racism and protest

As society grapples with unrest around racism and protest, books about black artists and black history shine a spotlight on the struggles and accomplishments of black Americans throughout history. These six books, and many others, are available at Mint Museum Store uptown.

Protest. The Aesthetics of Resistance

Illustrated with expressive photographs and posters, Protest. considers social, culture-historical, sociological, and politological perspectives, as well as approaches that draw on visual theory, popular culture, and cultural studies. In the process, the book takes into account in particular such contemporary developments as the virtualization of protest, how it has been turned into the fictional and its exploitation in politics by power holders of all shades. (Lars Muller Publishers, $29.95).

Hip Hop Raised Me by DJ Semtex

In Hip Hop Raised Me., updated for 2018, DJ Semtex examines the crucial role of hip-hop in society today, and reflects on the huge influence it has had on his own life, and the lives of many others, filling in the gaps of education that school left behind, providing inspiration and purpose to generation after generation of disaffected youths. Taking a thematic approach and featuring seminal interviews he has conducted with key hip-hop artists, Semtex traces the characteristics and influence of hip-hop from its origins in the early 1970s to the impact of contemporary artists and the global industry that is hip-hop today. (Thames and Hudson, $40).

30 Americans: Rubell Museum

30 Americans showcases works by many of the most important African American artists of the last three decades. The artwork focuses on issues of racial, sexual, and historical identity in contemporary culture while exploring the powerful influence of artistic legacy and community across generations. Since the 1960s, Miami’s Rubell family has collected the works of the most relevant contemporary African American artists as an integral part of their broader mission to collect the most interesting art of our time, which is showcased in the book. (Rubell Family Collection, $45).

Jill Freedman: Resurrection City, 1968

“Originally published in 1970, Jill Freedman’s Old News: Resurrection City documented the culmination of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of Dr. King’s assassination. Three thousand people set up camp for six weeks in a makeshift town that was dubbed Resurrection City, and participated in daily protests. Freedman lived in the encampment for its entire six weeks, photographing the residents, their daily lives, their protests and their eventual eviction. This new 50th-anniversary edition of the book reprints most of the pictures from the original publication, with improved printing and a more vivid design. Alongside Freedman’s hard-hitting original text, two introductory essays are included.” (Grossman Publishers, $45).


Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic

Filled with reproductions of Kehinde Wiley’s bold, colorful and monumental work, this book encompasses the artist’s various series of paintings as well as his sculptural work, which boldly explore ideas about race, power, and tradition. Celebrated for his classically styled paintings that depict African American men in heroic poses, Kehinde Wiley is among the expanding ranks of prominent black artists who are reworking art history and questioning its depictions of people of color. This volume surveys Wiley’s career from 2001 to the present. It includes early portraits of the men Wiley observed on Harlem’s streets, and which laid the foundation for his acclaimed reworkings of Old Master paintings in which he replaces historical subjects with young African American men in contemporary attire: puffy jackets, sneakers, hoodies, and baseball caps. (Prestel, $49.95).

Messages from Home: The Art of Leo Twiggs (Signed Copy)

Foreword from book by William U. Eiland : “In the middle of one of the interminable brouhahas over the Confederate Battle Flag here in the South, I heard of an African-American artist who was using the symbol in innovative ways, painting it in batik to invest it with new meaning. Leo Twiggs’ flags are no paeans to a lost cause, no emblems even of a mythic past. They are, however, in the language of contemporary criticism, ‘comments’ on society through ‘appropriation.’ In this case, theoretical cliché comes close to truth. Twiggs, with gentle but unswerving irony, takes the flag and claims it as part of his Southern heritage. Tattered, disappearing almost, the standard about which so much controversy has been generated becomes in Twiggs’ hand an ambiguous metaphor of unresolved conflict and shared history. Such images on color-infused fabric not only mock the flag as a talisman losing its power, but also present a symbol that in its very mutability and degradation is strangely current, yet jarringly discomfiting in an era when the nation has a black president. In addition to the Civil War, it calls to mind for Twiggs the suffering of slaves, the turmoil of Reconstruction, the indignity of Jim Crow, the promise of the Civil Rights era and its aftermath, when this piece of cloth, venerated by some, reviled by others, continues to inspire argument and dissent. Twiggs transforms the image through shaping a new iconography for it, one in which he finds the possibility, albeit remote, of accord. Twiggs’ art, thus, even with the most explosive of subjects, is intensely personal but never strident. Through depictions of the violence of hurricanes, the complexity of race relations, the romance of Southern rivers, and the bonds of family, he weaves his experiences into a coherent, but occasionally elusive narrative. (Cecil Williams Photography/Publishing / Claflin University Press, $82).

Create your own Chihuly-like sculpture

Create your own Chihuly-like sculpture

Inspired by Royal Blue Mint Chandelier by Dale Chihuly that hangs in the Carroll Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown, this project incorporates layering and mixing colors while using recycled materials from home. Watch how Royal Blue Mint Chandelier was moved to the Mint Museum Uptown.


  • Old wire hanger (the thinner the metal, the easier it is to bend) 
  • Recycled plastic bottles 
  • Paint 
  • Paint brush 
  • Scissors (pointed tip work best) 
  • Corks (optional) 
  • Pliers or metal snips (optional) 

NOTE: This project is geared to older children and teens. To simplify this for younger children, precut the plastic bottles and begin at step 4.

1. Begin by removing the paper rod from the hanger. Either bend or snip off ends of the hanger so that the corks can be attached. If you don’t have any corks or wire cutters, just bend the two ends of the hanger in opposite directions. This will create the bottom of your chandelier and keep the plastic bottles from falling off the hanger. Option: If you don’t have a metal hanger, you can create a sculpture that sits flat. 

2. Using scissors, cut off the tops or bottoms of the plastic bottles. Squeezing the bottle flat makes cutting easier. Once that is done, cut on a spiral or in straight lines stopping near the top. Leave enough of the top or bottom of the bottle so that they can be stacked together. Alternating tops and bottoms will create space between layers. Play with both options to see which one appeals to you before cutting all your bottles. (The thickness of the plastic bottles varies by brand; you may need to ask someone for help with the cutting). 


3. If you are using the bottoms of the bottles be careful not to make the hole too big or it will not stay on the hanger. (See lower part of the photo). If you are using the tops of the bottles, cut just below the mouth of the bottle where the plastic becomes thinner. (See upper part of the photo). 


4. After you have decided how many bottles you want to use and how you will stack them, paint them any way you like. If you want the bottom of your chandelier to be seen, paint or decorate your corks. Make sure the paint is dry before assembling. 


5. Slide each bottle over the top of the hanger, stacking one inside the other. Bending or rolling the plastic strips in the opposite direction will take out some of the curl and create a straighter piece. Have fun creating your own unique work of art! 

Challenge: Build a wire armature to create a larger piece. Be sure to watch the video below to see how Dale Chihuly built his chandelierAdd a strand of battery operated mini lights to make this project shine! 


‘I hope we all can learn to see the value in slowing down,’ says Asheville-based artist Nava Lubelski

‘I need time and space to make work, but my inspiration most often comes from messes and mistakes.’

Asheville-based fiber artist Nava Lubelski transforms textiles with embroidery that pierces through splashes of stain and color. She fills tears and holes with delicate lace stitching that result in abstract creations. Her piece Chance of Flurries, 2011 is part of the permanent collection at The Mint Museum.

Studio location: Asheville, North Carolina


Nava Lubelski at home with her 7-year-old son.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Rina Bannerjee, Ghada Amer, Bruce Naumann, Lee Krasner, Tom Friedman, Helen Frankenthaler, and Sarah Sze.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I’m fond of Day Dreams, 2008. I feel like the simplified color palette highlights the juxtaposition between luscious, detailed stitching and wild, organic splatters. I also am proud of the piece in the Mint Museum collection, Chance of Flurries, 2011.  

Nava Lubelski (American, 1968–). Chance of Flurries, 2011, acrylic paint and hand stitching on canvas. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Mike and Betsy Blair in memory of Catherine Schiff Blair. 2016.31

How does your environment influence your art?

I respond to both chaos and calm. I need time and space to make work, but my inspiration most often comes from messes and mistakes. 

The yellow is”Tidying Up, 2020,” acrylic paint, hand-stitched thread and manufactured trimming on canvas.

 Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I’m finding it hard to focus on my usual work right now, with a kid at home full-time, and have been playing with more immediate projects, mailing out impromptu handmade books and working on drawings. Luckily, I am an imperfectionist, so I just believe in trying hard and seeing what happens, but it doesn’t have to go a certain way.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I hope we all can learn to see the value in slowing down. I think people are already seeing clearly that things are not and have not been working well for all of us.

What does your daily routine look like now? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

My husband has closed his office, so my work space right now is filled with a lot of additional equipment and in turn I’ve sprawled out into the living room. My afternoons tend to be busy with family/dog walks in the woods. Mornings are when I can catch some alone time. I enjoy lying in the dark and seeing what comes. I’m not someone who fears insomnia. I appreciate the quiet and the dark, and the chance to feel what I’m feeling and hear my own thoughts, though they aren’t always pleasant. 

“The Deadly Ooh Business, 2020,” acrylic paint, hand-stitched thread, yarn and wire on canvas.

What’s you cooking these days?

I like cobbling together Indian-type meals. I’m not good at following recipes, but I’m pretty good at winging it.

What are you currently reading?

At the moment it’s mostly news, although I read Red Clocks not too long ago. Most of my reading stamina lately seems to be used up by reading Fablehaven to my son.

What is your favorite music choice?

My husband has been at home playing guitar all day, so that’s pretty much my soundtrack right now.

What is your favorite podcast?

For easy entertainment I like Reply All.

From war-torn Colombia to the Mint: How one staffer found her home away from home at the museum

From war-torn Colombia to the Mint: how one staffer found her home away from home at the museum

We at the Mint were so excited about International Museum Day this Monday, May 18 that we decided to unroll a week of content for it. And how better to round out the week than to tell the story of this year’s theme—diversity—than through the story of one of the Mint’s crown jewels: Kurma Murrain.

A native of Colombia, South America, Murrain joined the Mint team as community programs coordinator in 2018, where she (alongside Rubie Britt-Height, director of community relations) helps organize some of the museum’s most dynamic programming catering to the region’s international audience and anyone who wants a taste of the world outside Charlotte. Murrain is also an award-winning poet, a talented performer (she was part of The Vagina Monologues at Queens University of Charlotte in 2016), and always ready with an easy laugh.

Here’s Murrain’s story, as told to Caroline Portillo. Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

I grew up in Bogota, Colombia, in the mountains. I was always writing something — I started with little poems for my mom about how much I loved her. Then in my early teen years at school, I always wanted to share what I was writing with my friends. The teachers noticed and started calling on me to read my poems: in the classroom, on Mother’s Day, on Teacher’s Day. When I was taking physics in high school, I was so bad at it. Failing miserably, and there was no way I was going to pass that class. Then one day my physics teacher came in the classroom, after having read a poem I’d posted on the bulletin board at school. He said, “You don’t need to study physics. You have a talent. I’ll give you a passing grade.” 

Escobar, narcos and ‘a good place to be’ 

We watch a lot of American TV and movies in Colombia. I grew up poor, and to watch those TV shows, I thought everybody in the United States lived an abundant life, and had beautiful houses. Plus, in my country, there was a lot of racism. My brother and I were usually the only black students in the school,  and we were bullied because we were black. I didn’t see that on the TV shows in the United States, so I thought, “that’s a good place to be.” 

I was also living in Colombia during the time of Pablo Escobar and the narco war. I experienced so many horrendous things. They were killing everybody—journalists, artists, important people from the government. They were kidnapping and putting car bombs everywhere. So, yes, I was dreaming about the United States, but I also had another motivation to get out of there.

[NOTE: I am happy to report that Colombia’s former president Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring the nation’s more than 50-year civil war to an end. Colombia is now a safer, more beautiful place.]

The Warmth of Other Suns program at The Mint Museum

In 1998, a coworker told me the YMCA was recruiting summer camp counselors from other countries. I was hired to work at a special needs camp in New Jersey for three months. I had my first experience in the United States and wanted to come back. I came back in 2000 to work at another special needs camp in the Catskills in New York. 

Afterward, I kept thinking “I want to go back, but I want to work in my field, education.” In Colombia, I was teaching English at several universities and teaching private classes at a bank, so my friend told me about a program called Visiting International Faculty, that hires teachers to come to the U.S. for three to five years. 

I called them and told them about my experience, and they said I was the perfect candidate except for one little thing: I needed to have had a drivers’ license for at least two years. I didn’t drive. So I started taking classes, got my license. This was the thing I’d been dreaming of my whole life, so I was like, “OK, it’s only two years.” 

I was 32 when I could finally apply to be a teacher in the US. I marked on my application that I wanted to work in California. That’s what I’d seen in the movies. But it was a school in Charlotte that wanted me, South Meck High School. And they wanted me to be there in two weeks. I had a mini panic attack, heart attack, and stroke at the same time. And when I saw the email, I said “Charlotte?” 

I even considered not going because I’d fallen in love. And this man was gorgeous. But when I told him, “Hey I got this email and I may go to Charlotte in two weeks,” he started laughing. I said, “What the heck?” 

And he said, “I’m laughing because my best friends live in Charlotte.”

‘Like Disneyland’ 

It was amazing. The guy I was dating made introductions on email, and his friends said I could stay with them at their home off Carmel Road while I settled down. I didn’t even have a car, so they took me to school and picked me up in the afternoon. I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at South Meck for three years. 

In 2005, one of the Spanish teachers, Mr. Lopez, told me there was a poetry contest at the Mint Museum. You didn’t have to sign up for anything. Just show up and read your poem. 

We went straight to the auditorium at Mint Museum Randolph. I didn’t win, but there were more contests at the Mint—four a year—and I won three consecutive times between 2005 and 2006.

Winner of Poesía Viva at The Mint Museum, 2006 (Primera Fila)

I met Rubie Britt Height, the Mint’s director of community relations, in 2012. I was getting an award at the main library uptown and asked the audience if I could read a poem I’d written for my mother who had passed just three months earlier. After I read the poem, Rubie had her mouth open in awe. Then she started inviting me to events at the museum to read my poems, especially Mint to Move. Before everyone started dancing, I would read a poem. 

Waiting to receive an award for Latin American artists at the Main Library & the day I met Mint’s Director of Community Relations, Rubie Britt-Height

In 2016, I went to teach English in China for a year. I love adventure. But even while I was there, Rubie asked me to send a video of a poem for the Mint’s Día de las Velitas (Day of the Candles)   celebration, a Colombian tradition, that December. And a few months later, she had an event at
the museum while I was visiting a cousin in Thailand, and she asked me to read a poem I wrote while I was in China. Because of the time difference, I got up at 5 AM to get ready to connect to Charlotte via Skype. 

When I came back to the U.S. I returned to teach Spanish at a school in South Carolina, but I wasn’t fulfilled. Then Rubie gave me a call. She said there was a position open at the Mint for a community programs coordinator and that I should apply. 

When they hired me on April 30, 2018, I was ecstatic. The Mint was the best place in the world. Like Disneyland.

Photoshoot for Immersed In Light video

Called to be inspired

The Mint is the most beautiful place. It’s quiet. It calls you to meditate, to be inspired. And my coworkers are so kind. Before working at the Mint, I already had strong ties to the Latin community and the artistic community. I’d been on panels and shared poetry at places like Queens University and Johnson C. Smith University. But being at The Mint Museum now is a platform on which I can help others.

It’s exciting to plan for them, to talk to the performers, to see them and see the reaction of the people. It makes me feel accomplished, too. After each event I think, “Wow, this was great. And I was part of it.” 

What I love about the Mint’s programming is I am able to see such a variety of artists, painters, musicians, dancers, poets. It’s such a great array. Every program is so unique and brings a different public. 

The Mint is a big part of the Latin community. At Mint Música & Poesía Café—a biannual event that features talented poets, dancers and musicians from the region— we’ve had a salsa dancer who’s now dancing at an academy in New York. We’ve had a cellist from Colombia play while a PowerPoint of photos from Colombian landscapes played. We’ve had a poet from Puerto Rico share a powerful story about his father.

Mint Música & Poesía Café w/ Puerto Rican Poet Neftalí Ortiz

Before I worked at the Mint and heard about Mint to Move—our bimonthly cultural dance night that regularly draws 300 to 400 people—I was like “We can dance at the museum? And there’s a DJ and sometimes a live band playing? Oh my gosh.” So I started bringing all my friends. 

Through Mint to Move, I’ve met black people from other Latin American areas and countries, such as Puerto Rico, Cuba. They understand the struggle. For instance, I teach with the Mint’s Grier Heights Youth Art Program on Wednesdays. The children think I’m black before I speak. And then once I speak, they just open their eyes and are like, “you’re not black.”

“But, wait,” I ask them. “Why does that change?” I have to explain to them that slavery came to North America, but also to all parts of America: Central America, South America, the Carribbean. They don’t teach that at school.

Cumbia (traditional Colombian dance) performance at Mint to Move

It’s very touching to be able to see and experience artists who are from your country or any Latin American country. It’s like bringing a little bit of home to the community. And the language—to be able to listen to poetry or music in Spanish. The older people especially get so emotional when they can listen to their language and talk to people like me. It’s a great way to stay connected to their community and their country. 

Then I also work with people who just want to know more about Latin American culture. We had a group from UNC Charlotte and another at Johnson C. Smith University who started coming to Mint Música & Poesia Café and Mint to Move. They just love these events. Then there’s Bilingual Stories & Music, which draws Latin families, Asian families, African-American families, white families. And there are so many marriages with spouses from the U.S. who want to learn about their spouses’ cultures through our programs. It’s a beautiful connection they make because they have that special person next to them, and they’re experiencing the programs together. They can see through different eyes. And because of the Mint, I get to be a part of that.

‘I believe something really positive will emerge out of this global experience of our shared vulnerability,’ says artist Sheila Gallagher

Artist Sheila Gallagher finds inspiration for her artwork in everything she sees.

‘I think the pandemic has really provoked me into asking serious questions about my art practice and more generally what the world needs artists to be.’

Artist, and mom to a high school senior, Sheila Gallagher is an associate professor of fine art at Boston College where she teaches courses on drawing, painting and contemporary art practice. While sheltering at home, she continues to sketch and work in her studio, is relishing a more leisurely schedule, and also tackling a few domestic projects like making curtains. Her artwork, Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebulae, is part of the permanent collection at the Mint.

Studio location: Boston, Massachusetts


Describe the artwork you create and medium you use.

I am an interdisciplinary/hybrid artist and I use any material necessary. I make paintings out of smoke, plastic trash, live flowers … anything. I also make videos and do live drawing performances.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Oh so many! My new art crush is Formafantasma that uses lidar technology to make visually riveting animations that explore life from the perspective of a forest. I am always inspired by the work of artists like Doris Salcedo, Sister Corita, Sarah Sze, and Sanford Biggers who have great minds and deep hearts and really understand form and materiality. And anyone really who knows how to draw: Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Gros. Even though he is unpopular, I think Hans Bellmar makes incredibly beautiful lines.

I also love the work of a little known self-taught Bahamian painter named Amos Ferguson. But if I could only have one piece of art to behold for the rest of my life it would be Stargazer, a small transclucent white marble statue of a female figure from approximately 4,000 BC that I saw at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and think about all the time. Cultures come and go.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I think it may very well be Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebulae, a large plastic painting that was commissioned by The Mint Museum and included in the Under Construction exhibition (now part of the permanent collection). I really had to wrestle it to the ground to get the composition to work, and I ended up really liking the psychedelic palette and all of the hidden images and words. I also think it might be one of my favorites because it probably has more hours of me in it than almost any other piece, and I have very fun memories of working with two saintly assistants, Claire and Rachel, who have great voices, and were always singing and willing to pull all nighters with me.

Sheila Gallagher (American). Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebula, 2018, melted plastic on armature. Museum purchase with funds provided by Wells Fargo. 2018.48

How does your environment influence your art?

Everything in my sight line influences my art. I am like a bower bird drawn to every shiny piece of trash. My house and studio are chock full of images and objects and books and small pieces of ephemera. Anything can be a material or mnemonic device. My teenage son has accused us of “drowning in meaningfulness” and likes to remind me that not everything can be special . But I wonder, why not? I don’t think I am quite a hoarder, but under the right wrong circumstances could definitely lean that way.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I have to say, I am growing quite fond of my “shelter-in-place” mornings. Now that my son is finishing high school online, the mornings are much more leisurely. I usually wake up around 7:30 AM and listen to a book on tape for about 30 minutes. Then I go downstairs and get tea and toast and take them back to bed and read under the covers. I try not to look at the news before I meditate. At around 9 AM I start checking texts and emails and jumping all over the internet. When I feel myself going down an unproductive rabbit hole, I jump up and make the bed and a to-do list and try to get cracking.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I think the pandemic has really provoked me into asking serious questions about my art practice and more generally what the world needs artists to be. I am definitely going inward and trying to cultivate intuition and discernment, which I have to trust will ultimately manifest in artwork, Inshallah. For now it doesn’t feel right to plan a big exhibition, and I have put aside some large projects. Like a lot of artists I know, in this moment I feel drawn to a collective creativity while at the same time find myself more comfortable doing small and quiet solo things like sketching and making little collages in my sketchbook.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

With everyone working remotely, my house has never felt more crowded, and I feel very grateful to have a studio for escape and solitude. Most afternoons are a combo platter of studio and house. Everyday I do e-mails and draw and I try to stay connected with my art practice, teaching job and friends. Taking walks is the new going out for drinks.

I find I have a new found interest in domestic projects like making curtains, cooking soup, and organizing the laundry closet. My house has never been so clean. Now that Purell is an endangered product, we have started making artisanal hand sanitizer (called Mom’s Napalm) out of grain alcohol, witch hazel, eucalyptus oil, cloves and my secret ingredient: holy water from Saint Brigid’s Well in Ireland.

Gallagher created her own artisanal hand sanitizer while sheltering at home that her family named “Mom’s Napalm”

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I believe something really positive will emerge out of this global experience of our shared vulnerability. There is a possibility for deep transformation where the world’s resources, scientific intelligence and good will are forever put at the service of the common good and protecting the most fragile amongst us. I was very moved by a An Imagined Letter from COVID-19 to Humans by Kristin Flyntz , which eloquently imagines a more earth-centeredb mindset.

Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

After dinner we usually read and/or watch a show. I am really into the series the New Pope Stylin. Lately we have also been getting into making “God’s Eyes” out of yarn. Very easy and very therapeutic and a welcome break from the screen. I am also a big fan of online yoga classes.

Gallagher at her studio in front of a collection of yarn God’s eyes that she’s made for a friend’s shrine. “I highly recommend Gods eyes as excellent pandemic therapy,” she says.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

Seafood soup and warm buttered toast, and hot tea with coconut cake, and red wine.

What are you currently reading?

Lots of poetry, too much news, Hyperallergic, Jerry Saltz, Richard Rohr, John Prendergast, and Akin by Emma O’Donoghue.

What is your favorite music choice?

These days I find myself drawn to chanting, and silly 80’s dance music.

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

I am more of a books -on-tape kind of gal. Right now I am listening to Kevin Barry read his new novel, Might Boat to Tangiers.

De-stress making a mandala

De-stress making a mandala

A mandala is a circular geometric configuration of symbols. With roots in Southeast Asian spiritual tradition, many today use these as a form of focused concentration, meditation, and relaxation. Art making also helps to identify and express emotion. This exercise uses symbols and colors to convey feelings.  


  • Sheet of paper or paper plate 

  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons 

  • A small round object such as a penny 

  • Ruler or measuring tape (or you can just eyeball it) 

Start by thinking of symbols that you like or that have meaning in your life. You can sketch some out on a separate piece of paper.

Next, think of a list of feelings and write them down. Decide which color best matches the feeling and make a mark for yourself so that you can look back at it as you create your mandala.  

Find the center of your paper or paper plate using a measuring device. Trace a small object over the top of the center point. This will give you a starting place. Working from the center, create patterns using symbols or colors that express your feelings.

Reflect on your finished piece. What colors are you drawn to? What feelings did you assign to those colors? Did you notice any change in your feelings as you progressed through the activity?  

‘I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct,’ says artist Damian Stamer

Photo by Katrina Williams/Fifty Two Hundred Photo

‘I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct,’ says artist Damian Stamer

Damian Stamer is a North Carolina native whose art is influenced by his Southern roots and rural landscapes. Though he’s painting the same subject matter, Stamer says he’s finding a different energy and urgency to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Studio location: Nestled in the woods of northern Durham County, North Carolina

Describe the artwork you create and medium your use

I paint architectural remnants that dot the rural landscape of the Carolinas. These are mostly oil paintings on panel, but I also love printmaking.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Anselm Kiefer, Beverly McIver, Neo Rauch, Matthias Weischer, Cecily Brown, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Dana Schutz, Adrian Ghenie, Kerry James Marshall, Vincent van Gogh, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Gerhard Richter, and Robert Rauschenberg.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I appreciate different pieces for different reasons, but if I had to pick one at this moment, I’d say St. Marys Rd. 8. It depicts an abandoned house on St. Marys Road just a few miles from the studio. In addition to enjoying how it turned out visually, it’s one of my favorites because I wrestled with it for over two years before laying down the final brushstroke.

St. Marys Rd 8

How does your environment influence your art?

In a way, my environment is my art. I paint my everyday surroundings. These are the places of my childhood. They allow me to explore memory, with all its faults and fictions, and investigate the tension between personal and historical truth.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

Before this all started, I was waking up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to paint, but then I decided it would be a good idea to sleep in to make sure I get enough rest for a healthy immune system. So now I’m waking up around 8 a.m. and beginning the day with meditation and exercise.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Although I continue to paint the same subject matter, I’m finding a different energy and urgency to the work. It’s hard to describe, but I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct. To quote my favorite musical, “no other road, no other way, no day but today.”

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is a short walk or very short drive from home, so I’m back and forth between the two quite a bit. In addition to painting, I have better wifi at the studio, so I’m usually on that computer if I have a Zoom meeting. I’ve also been taking a walk with my parents every afternoon. We stay on opposite sides of the road. We talk about our fears and what makes us anxious. We talk about the latest news and our plans for the day. We walk by the farm and say hello to the steers or take a moment to appreciate the redbuds’ blossoms or songbirds’ calls. We say what we are thankful for. These walks have been an incredible gift.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

This pandemic definitely has a way of putting things in perspective. Although it can bring up a lot of fears, it may also help us realize the many things in life that we are grateful for, the precious nature of every present moment.

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

We started watching movies every night, which seemed like a bit of an indulgence compared to the normal schedule, but it has been a fun way to relieve stress and relax.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

First off, I feel very privileged to have ready access to food during this time. I’m fortunate to live with a partner who is an amazing cook, so I’ve been washing a lot of dishes to do my part in the kitchen. Red lentil dal is a favorite, but I’m pretty spoiled because everything is delicious. It’s like a gourmet quarantine.

What are you currently reading?

Interviews with Artists: 1966-2012 by Michael Peppiatt and a lot of digital NYTimes.

What is your favorite music choice?

The Avett Brothers

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

The Daily (NYTimes)

On the Daily: 24 Hours in the Life of Katherine Boxall

On the Daily: 24 Hours in the Life of Katherine Boxall

Large abstract paintings may be Katherine Boxall’s lifeblood, but she’s no hippie artist. In fact, the 26-year-old Ottawa, Canada native finds freedom—and creativity—in the near-scientific precision she applies to her daily schedule. Boxall, who moved to Charlotte from San Francisco in 2018, is the new Constellation CLT artist, whose work will be on display in Mint Museum Uptown’s public spaces beginning Feb. 21.

Boxall currently splits her time between her 25-hour-a-week marketing job at Jerald Melberg Gallery and her west Charlotte studio, a haven for her work with acrylics, spray paint, pastels, and oils. While wrestling her golden retriever puppy, Sophie, out of a mud puddle, Boxall walked us through her typical Wednesday.

6:10 AM I wake up. I literally do not even get out of my bed until I’ve had two espressos with some oatmeal cream that my fiancé brings to me. We have a golden retriever puppy, Sophie, who will then come in and jump on my side of the bed. So it’s double espresso, then pet the dog. 

6:30 AM My fiancé drops me off at Burn Boot Camp in Elizabeth. When people say, “enjoy your workout,” I think that’s crazy. But I do it, and it feels great. Then I walk back to our home in Elizabeth. 

7:20 AM I pick up Sophie and we go on a walk around the block. Everyone wants to pet her. No one knows my name, but they all know her name. She gets catcalls from across the street. It takes us 30 minutes to go one block. 

7:50 AM I have a green smoothie every morning: spinach, cucumber, avocado, banana, celery, and protein powder. I try to ensure I do all my good habits Monday to Friday because I don’t want to think about doing any good habits on the weekends. Like zero. 

9 AM I get to Jerald Melberg Gallery. Technically I’m the social media manager, but we don’t do titles there—Jerald and his wife, Mary, are sticklers about that: not creating a hierarchy. Everyone is expected to be a team player. We usually gather around the coffee pot for 10 minutes. Then I go to my desk in the back and edit pictures and write copy. I have a fake Instagram account, so I can test out how certain things look. I post 10 different things and then log in as a user and see how someone would see it. No detail is too small. It’s about how you make people feel when they’re interacting with your brand. 

Noon I meet with Jerald for 10 minutes before I leave to go home and feed Sophie. Then she takes me for a walk. It’s usually breakfast tacos for lunch. I’ll scramble eggs and put them in tortillas or do a cheese board with cheese, crackers, and olives. It’s not measly. The worst thing I could ever do is under-eat at lunch. It will sabotage my afternoon at the studio. I can’t think about anything when I’m hungry. 

1 PM For the next hour, I sit on my couch and do business and admin stuff: answering emails, scheduling art shipments, applying for new opportunities and awards, and managing my website and social networks. Then I change my clothes. I literally wear the same raggedy Lululemon sweatpants, a vintage Nike sweatshirt and a polar fleece I’ve had since I was 11 years old. 

2 PM I get to my art studio on Wilkinson Boulevard. It’s 650 square feet and perfect for what I want to do. 

2:05 PM I set everything up and clean up my last session. It helps me get back in the zone. I put on a couple of playlists I’ve been listening to for years. On Spotify, it’d be categorized as “brain food”—ambient, repetitive, electronic, indie. Nothing with too many lyrics or anything that would affect my mood that much because that will affect the way I paint. I usually have two or three large, 8-feet-by-six-feet paintings in my studio at a time, and I also have small ones scattered everywhere. I use the smaller pieces to test out different colors and textures. Then when I go to the big painting, I’m super confident and it just flows. A lot of times I come at the smaller ones with such an intuitive eye that they end up being just as good or better than the big ones. So, there’s not a hierarchy between the works—it’s just my process, a way for me to say, “This is low pressure.” It’s a mind game. I don’t want to see the struggle on the large works. For me, it’s also about knowing when to stop, leaving a lot of negative space. That’s control. 

3 PM  I take some pictures of the work. I love putting progress pictures on my Instagram. It’s fun for people to see, and it keeps me from psyching myself out. 

3:30 PM  I take a break. My best artist friend calls me and we talk for an hour about painting. That really helps me feel like I’m still part of the community in California. We are in two different warehouses across the world, but we’re still collaborating and thinking about the same thing. 

4 PM I take the pictures I took of my work and upload them to my computer, where I test a bunch of things in Photoshop. It helps me have even more confidence in my designs. It’s a digital sketchbook. 

4:30 PM  This is the moment where I decide, “Am I going to beat traffic and go home, or am I going to push it until 6:30 p.m.?” It’s usually flipping a coin. Some days I need to do more thinking and work on my computer. Some days I am completely in the zone. 

7 PM I’m home and my fiancé and I make dinner. I usually marinate salmon in the morning for us to have for dinner that night. He always grills the vegetables. 

8 PM I take Sophie for a walk and then try to be as lazy as possible. At night, we watch a lot of Netflix and HBO. We just finished “You.”  

10:30 PM Bedtime. I’m definitely not a hippie artist—I’m a type-A artist. I think if you’re trying to take it seriously, you have to take it seriously. If you don’t treat it like your day job, it’s not your day job. It takes a lot of constant effort.


— As told to Caroline Portillo, Director of  Marketing & Communications

Public is invited to experience Lumisonica on Friday November 16 at Mint Museum Uptown

The Mint Museum is pleased to announce the public debut of Lumisonica, a site-specific, interactive light and sound installation on the Grand Staircase of Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts created by Vesna Petresin. Beginning Friday, November 16, visitors will experience a changing canvas of ambient light and sound that responds to their movements as they climb or descend the stairs.

That evening, Mint Museum President & CEO Todd A. Herman PhD and artist Vesna Petresin will make remarks. The event begins at 6 PM with remarks anticipated at 6:30 PM. Petresin and Creative Design Lead Ben Mason will also be available to speak to the media. There will be a cash bar in the museum’s atrium, and the museum galleries will remain open until 9 PM.

Petresin, born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is a trans-disciplinary artist who has exhibited and performed at the Tate Modern; ArtBasel Miami; the Royal Academy of the Arts; the Venice Biennale; the Institute of Contemporary Arts London; and the Vienna Secession. She is based in London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. She is scheduled to be an artist in residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation from January through April.

Mason, based in Asheville, runs a digital media business offering services such as media systems architecture and design, photography, animation, web design, sound design, show control/stage interactives, and more. He designed and implemented the lighting and sound systems and consulted on programming for Lumisonica.

The project was funded through a generous grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which challenged museums to use technology to enhance the visitor experience.

Creating a multisensory landscape

Lumisonica transforms the museum’s main entrance into an unparalleled immersive experience that will be choreographed by the visiting public. Based upon the idea of the smart city, this multisensory landscape makes invisible space visible, audible, and tangible while aiming to increase people’s awareness that they can and do shape their own place, perceptions and reality. Lumisonica assures a daring and playful experience like no other in the heart of Charlotte’s flourishing art district. Juxtaposed near the large reflective Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture Firebird in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, this light and sound sculpture provides another dynamic feature to highlight entropic experiences, moiré patterns and other optical and perceptional illusions in this cultural area.

The “smart city” concept of this dynamic datascape is drawn from two components that change the form to an accessible visual/audio display based upon public movement and engagement:

Visual content is created by programmable LED light features embedded into the staircase and railings. The light effects are designed to work interactively based on data captured from the environment as well as on presets of visual effects. The light effects are programmed along a 24/7 schedule with pre-rendered sets at specific times of the day, combined with responsive effects based on criteria such as visibility, program of events at the museum, and the number of visitors.

Audio content permeates ambient sound loops designed to respond and support the light effects. These amplify the visitor’s feeling of presence in the environment and assist their spatial navigation, by amplifying the ranges of frequencies that translate to embodied sensations. The audio content includes composed soundscapes and loops of sonic textures as well as key framed musical motifs on specific days and at specific times to announce events.

“My work tries to offer a moment to remember we inhabit and co-create a multisensory symphony,” said Petresin. “The piece for the Mint has been inspired by the idea that matter is information under constant transformation, bringing memory, human connection, wonder, and innovation.”

Lumisonica will be in place during The Mint Museum’s upcoming exhibition Immersed in Light (Fall 2019 – Spring 2020). The exhibition will feature experiential lighting installations by four contemporary artists and designers at Mint Museum Uptown.

Staircase to enhance museum experience, visitation

The Mint was among 12 recipients of $1.87 million in funding from the Knight Foundation for new ways of using technology to immerse visitors in art. Institutions in cities including Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City are joining Charlotte in creating new tools ranging from chat bots to augmented reality apps to engage new audiences.

Funding for this project is part of a Knight Foundation initiative to help museums better meet new community demands and use digital tools to meaningfully engage visitors in art. Knight, which promotes informed and engaged communities, has helped institutions—from newsrooms to libraries—adapt to and thrive in the digital age. This funding expands the foundation’s use of its digital expertise to help art museums build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“The arts have the rare power to bring diverse communities together, provoke personal reflection, and inspire new ways of thinking,” said Victoria Rogers, Knight Foundation vice president for the arts. “Our hope is that by integrating technology, museums can better reach and engage audiences in ways that connect them to the art.”


Vesna Petresin is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Amsterdam University of the Arts and a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths (University of London). She has been an Artist in Residence at ZKM in Germany and created a London-based trans-disciplinary art collective whose exploration of optics, acoustics and psychology takes the format of performance, installation and artifact.

As a time architect, non-object based designer, space composer and performer, her practice utilizes an alchemy of media and senses (sound, film, space, interaction, and performance) to take art out of the white cube and bring it into an immersive experience. The key concept is transformation—of the material, the immaterial and the self.

Petresin seeks elements to link cultures rather than separate them and pays attention to archetypal formal constants and patterns existing in nature, human perception and the creative process. Her work in immersive light is ground-breaking and has been featured at Tate Modern, ArtBasel Miami, Venice Biennale, The Royal Festival Hall, The Royal Academy of Arts, ICA, The Sydney Opera House, Vienna Secession, Cannes International Film Festival and Kings Place among others.

Petresin’s academic background in classical music and architecture has propelled her as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a Member of the Architectural Association, a keynote speaker at symposia including “SuperLux: Smart Light Art, Design and Architecture for Cities” (Technical University of Munich, 2016), the XR Summit (ISE at RAI, Amsterdam 2018) and a print author of internationally notable publications. She has written on smart cities (Thames & Hudson, Black Dog) and on Leonardo da Vinci’s creative methods in relation to 21st century view of morphogenesis in art and design for Springer Publications.


Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.